Scottish Philosopher, Historian, Economist and Essayist known for his philosophical empiricism and scepticism
"Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous."
"If suicide be supposed a crime, it is only cowardice can impel us to it. If it be no crime, both prudence and courage should engage us to rid ourselves at once of existence when it becomes a burden."
"It is certain that a serious attention to the sciences and liberal arts softens and humanizes the temper, and cherishes those fine emotions in which true virtue and honor consist. It very rarely happens that a man of taste and learning is not, at least, an honest man, whatever frailties may attend him."
"It is harder to avoid censure than to gain applause; for this may be done by one great or wise action in an age. But to escape censure a man must pass his whole life without saying or doing one ill or foolish thing."
"Never speak by superlatives; for in so doing you will be likely to wound either truth or prudence. Exaggeration is neither thoughtful, wise, nor safe. It is a proof of the weakness of the understanding, or the want of discernment of him that utters it, so that even when he speaks the truth, he soon finds it is received with partial, or even utter disbelief."
"Nothing is more free than the imagination of man; and though it cannot exceed that original stock of ideas furnished by the internal and external senses, it has unlimited power of mixing, compounding, separating, and dividing these ideas, in all the varieties of fiction and vision. It can feign a train of events, with all the appearance of reality, ascribe to them a particular time and place, conceive them as existent, and paint them out of itself with every circumstance, that belongs to any historical fact, which it believes with the greatest certainty."
"Notwithstanding the empire of the imagination, there is a secret tie or union among particular ideas, which causes the mind to conjoin them more frequently together, and makes the one, upon its appearance, introduce the other... These principles of association are reduced to three, viz. Resemblance... Contiguity... Causation... as it is by means of thought only that any thing operates upon our passions, and as these are only ties of our thought, they are really to us the cement of the universe, and all the operations of the mind must, in a great measure, depend on them."
"So that, upon the whole, there appears not, throughout all nature, any one instance of connexion which is conceivable by us. All events seem entirely loose and separate. One event follows another; but we never can observe any ties between them. They seem conjoined, but never connected. And as we have no idea of any thing which never appeared to our outward sense or inward sentiment, the necessary conclusion seems to be that we have no idea of connexion or power at all, and that these words are absolutely without meaning, when employed either in philosophical reasonings or common life. But there still remains one method of avoiding this conclusion, and one source which we have not yet examined."
"Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular. Its chief use is only to discover the constant and universal principles of human nature, by showing men in all varieties of circumstances and situations, and furnishing us with materials from which we may form our observations and become acquainted with the regular springs of human action and behavior."
"It is universally allowed that nothing exists without a cause of its existence, and that chance, when strictly examined, is a mere negative word, and means not any real power which has anywhere a being in nature."
"Look around this universe. What an immense profusion of beings, animated and organized, sensible and active! You admire this prodigious variety and fecundity. But inspect a little more narrowly these living existences, the only beings worth regarding. How hostile and destructive to each other! How insufficient all of them for their own happiness! How contemptible or odious to the spectator! The whole presents nothing but the idea of a blind nature, impregnated by a great vivifying principle, and pouring forth from her lap, without discernment or parental care, her maimed and abortive children."
"The memory, senses, and understanding are, therefore, all of them founded on the imagination, or the vivacity of our ideas."
"The only connexion or relation of objects, which can lead us beyond the immediate impression of our memory and senses, is that of cause and effect; and that because ‘tis the only one, on which we can found a just inference from one object to another."
"To be happy, the temperament must be cheerful and gay, not gloomy and melancholy. A propensity to hope and joy, is real riches; one to fear and sorrow is real poverty."
"To me, there appear to be only three principles of connection among ideas, namely, Resemblance, Contiguity in time or place, and Cause or Effect."
"Upon the whole, necessity is something, that exists in the mind, not in objects; nor is it possible for us ever to form the most distant idea of it, consider’d as a quality in bodies. Either we have no idea of necessity, or necessity is nothing but that determination of the thought to pass from causes to effects and from effects to causes, according to their experienc’d union."
"We speak not strictly and philosophically when we talk of the combat of passion and reason. Reason is, and ought only to be the salve of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."
"What we call mind is nothing but a heap or collection of different perceptions, united together by certain relations, and supposed, though falsely, to be endowed with a perfect simplicity and identity."
"Belief consists not in the nature and order of our ideas, but in the manner of their conception, and in their feeling to the mind... something felt by the mind, which distinguishes the ideas of the judgment from the fictions of the imagination."
"The proper office of religion is to regulate the heart of men, humanize their conduct, infuse the spirit of temperance, order, and obedience."
"The same principles [that apply in polytheism] naturally deify mortals, superior in power, courage, or understanding, and produce hero-worship."